Is Your Poor Health Destroying Your Productivity?

By | Posted November 8th, 2012

Americans are unhealthier than ever. More than a third of Americans are not just overweight, but obese. Some of it has to do with poor food and beverage choices. The average American drinks about 45 gallons of soda every year. And the fact that many jobs require sitting down all day doesn’t help, either. But many Americans also suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes. Dealing with health is bad enough, but is it also destroying your productivity?

A lack of productivity at work can have far-reaching repercussions. It may affect your relationship with your boss and coworkers. You may be passed up for raises and bonuses that could bring more money and stability into your household. If your productivity suffers enough, you may even stand to lose your job altogether, and in a cruel irony, your health insurance upon which you’re relying to regain your health. Before it gets to that point, you can take a few steps to improve both your productivity and your health.

Talk to Your Doctor

Before you try taking any action to improve your health, make an appointment with your primary care physician or any specialists you see for specific conditions. Talk to them about how you can improve your health without aggravating any chronic conditions you may have.

If you take medications that cause weight gain, ask about switching to an alternative that may not have those kinds of detrimental side effects. If it’s just a matter of needing to get more exercise, get a physical first to make sure your heart and body can manage increased activity.

Ask your doctor for advice on appropriate exercises you can do that won’t make your condition worse, or are a good place to start if you haven’t exercised in a long time. Trying to do too much right off the bat may just make things worse, and your productivity may suffer even more.

Sit Less, Move More

You know being a couch potato isn’t a healthy lifestyle. What you may not know is that sitting can actually cause more health problems than just weight gain. One study found that men who sit for more than 23 hours per week have a 64% greater risk of death from heart disease than men who are sedentary for fewer than 11 hours per week.

Obesity, fatigue, and more serious conditions like heart disease can adversely affect your productivity, not to mention your overall health. But what can you do if your job requires you to be in front of a computer or at a desk?

The most logical solution is to take frequent breaks to get up and move around. But that can also affect your productivity because the less time you spend at your desk, the less work you’re doing. If that’s the only option you have available to you, try to take breaks at the slowest times of your day so your productivity doesn’t suffer.

In fact, if you make time for breaks to refresh not just your body but your mind, you may even be more productive when you get back to your desk.

Give Up Your Traditional Desk

If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that not only acknowledges the advantages of healthy employees, but also is willing to take steps to promote that health, you may want to ask about an alternative workstation like a standing desk or a treadmill desk.

A standing desk is exactly what it sounds like—you stand at the desk rather than sitting. It’s high enough for you to reach your mouse and keyboard, and see the monitor without bending your neck. Many of these desks are adjustable to accommodate people of all heights, or to allow you to sit when you need to.

Go one step further, and a treadmill desk not only allows you to stand while you work, but even walk while you type. You can vary the treadmill’s speed, just as you would if you were working out, to find a comfortable pace that will accommodate your work. Both options can decrease the amount of time you spend sitting, improving your health. And when you’re healthy, you’re better able to work, so your productivity will increase as well.


It bears repeating that before you make any drastic changes to your lifestyle, or embark on a new exercise regimen, it’s best to talk to your doctor. Once you get the green light, try different methods of improving your health until you find what works for you, and what you enjoy. Above all, we work best when we’re happy, so keeping your activity fun and engaging will help you stay both healthy and productive.